The Pathway From ‘Preparation’ To ‘Origination’ by Shanez Pattni – This Changes Everything with East 15 Acting School

The Pathway From ‘Preparation’ To ‘Origination’ by Shanez Pattni – This Changes Everything with East 15 Acting School

WEEK 3
Tuesday

I entered this week with strong intentions of experiencing what others have when they volunteered for exercises and that, I did; and it was great!
We started the day off with Elán (or life-fullness) – which feels like second nature when warming up now. As the days and weeks progress, the relationship I have with my body and the ground has also progressed. Habitually, I tend to stay ‘above the ground’ as opposed to being grounded but since revisiting the contact with the floor, I feel am starting to feel so much more grounded physically as well mentally. The exploration of the different body parts and not actually knowing what will come next in my time on the floor is more exciting than being intelligent about it; it’s all about discovery.
We started to explore the idea of push and pull with a partner and how that relationship can evolve into something much more if we just focused and released the head. I was paired with Marisa and just started to counter balance each other’s weight but our heads immediately locked as though we needed to be in control of our movements and then it just felt abnormal, because my body was quite free and fluid whilst my head was just fixed in one position. Once we were reminded by David to release the head, the breath deepened and the floor was my friend again. Once that was released, Marisa and I were rolling on the floor, creating a story with just the resistance alone, but I felt sisterhood. I felt aggression but I felt we shared that together. Suddenly, I found a strength that I don’t necessarily use to my advantage all the time and I literally just stood in one place whilst pushing one place whilst Marisa was using different tactics to try and move me. At that moment, I found sisterhood within Marisa. She was my little sister trying to win one over me and I was like “no honey, I am the bigger sister, you need to just pipe down and LOVE ME!” I just remember looking into her eyes and seeing warmth but the strength was pulsing between us- very powerful.

The Frozen Lake

“What does this look like to you?” We were all faced with a plastic sheet on the floor and the first thing that came to my head was a frozen lake. The temperature in the room was cold too so that stimulated my imagination further. Everyone else was suggesting clinical or crime scenes but all I saw was peace and water. It was beautiful; and what then upset me was that it was just a sheet of plastic. Then another thought came to my head; is this what our children and their children will do? Imagining man made products as something that was once natural and beautiful but has now gone because of pollution in the sea caused by PLASTIC! Since reading Naomi Klein’s book and our process, I’ve been made aware of the connections between every little thing; sometimes it’s a blessing but most of the time I just blame myself for using plastic or anything that may harm the planet and that’s what I was doing then. However, I volunteered to dance on top of the sheet with music picked by David and it was the most peaceful I have been in a while. To me, however, I was not dancing. I was merely seeing the ocean for the first time. Cold, but beautiful. Shallow but I saw the depths within the waves. I could feel me imitating the ripples of the water which then caused undulations in my body, but it felt so free and innocent. Before the exercise, David told me not choreograph but to just feel it. Like the warm up, I just discovered. I discovered the ripple patterns of the ocean and, what it’d be like if it was frozen. My imagination went into hyperdrive but I had so much fun and I felt like a young Shanez not having a care in the world! I could feel myself anticipating my mum’s voice ruining the moment as she would never let young Shanez play by water; I was completely in it.
Scott then went under it and it was so interesting as my image of water disappeared. It looked more like a child under a parachute and he too looked like he was discovering. Seeing the cause and effect of things. But then he lost control of it as we fought back and it was (as Liam said) “like mankind was fighting against what’s been created”. The contrast between mine and his was very interesting but the synchronicity was still present.
Again, with the plastic sheet, Chloe and Tom did an exercise where he was under the plastic sheet, dead, whilst she was on top trying to get to them. It was harrowing to watch as Tom’s body was so lifeless and out of reach; but it was Chloe’s heartache that resonated more than anything. Everything about her reaction was so genuine and deep that it became beautifully harrowing.
“Push and pull was all I saw. Something was attracting Chloe but the reality of what was happening kept pulling her back”.

The Protests

This exercise was by the most powerful exercise I have ever done. It forced me to confront my beliefs and others’ beliefs that may or may not coincide with my own, and all we could say is yes or no. It did take quite a while for me to properly get into it because I didn’t just want to run to a wall and say yes or no with no belief behind it. I felt that at times, I was doing that because I was digging deep to what I believe. It was when I started to get personal with myself that I started to protest. Race was my biggest conflict. Suddenly, issues from secondary school started pouring in and I had to just let them out as I suppressed them for so long. But like I said in the learning circle, “the wall was not absorbing my questions”. It was only when I confronted myself in the mirror that I saw the 13 year old Shanez that had to deal with all that sh*t. I saw the only black girl in the room. Dark skinned. I saw her cry uncontrollably and her bullies beside her laughing whilst she did. I saw the little girl that didn’t want to live anymore and that was horrible. Having to confront that face on was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but I did it! And slowly it started to fade away after I came back into the room. I still saw a dark-skinned girl, but now one who is strong and bloody well knows it! I felt everyone’s warmth and it was beautiful.
“You said I’m just a dark-skinned girl who won’t fit in. Then I looked in the mirror and saw my family and I fit in perfectly”.
What this week has taught me is that at some point in your life, you will be confronted by things from your past and you must learn not to suppress. There were also many things that we had done this week that are now starting to form connections that you don’t necessarily see with tunnel vision. But by using ‘Preparation’ (David’s first stage of Creative Practice) we see these exercises weave in out of each other. These connections between one thing and another are starting to form our pathway from ‘Preparation to Origination’.

WEEK 5 – This Changes Everything – East 15 Acting School blog by Eleanor Fitton

WEEK 5 – This Changes Everything – East 15 Acting School blog by Eleanor Fitton

I never thought I would get back from rehearsals feeling like I’ve just been swimming, smelling of damp and having that shiver of your wet hair going down your spine. When will I ever get to say that again?
As an Ensemble all present in the room together, standing bare in our skivvies, can you get more natural? We all gave everything we had to this exercise. Being open, making risks and not being afraid of doing it wrong, that’s what performance is about. So thank fuck we have finally been given the chance to challenge ourselves and not to be boring. Being in a studio that is so wet is indescribable. As I dropped my body onto the floor shaking myself I could feel the water running across my body, slipping and sliding. I didn’t know where it would take me. I was surprised of what it did make me feel; like part of a ritual, but then it changed. Our faces were pressing against the wet floor as we spread and reached our fingers out. David said we are not to move, which made me feel like I was in a concentration camp. I didn’t dare breath, because if I did I knew what would happen.

When you’re standing by the sea you feel at peace, like that is where you belong in that very moment, and that’s because it is. We lived in our mother’s womb for 9 months, breathing and moving in water. People forget how important water is, we need it to survive. Why are people destroying it? Making it not worthy to drink because it’s polluted, so now we are having to go out and pay for bottles of plastic just to have a drink of water! It’s supposed to be natural, so why do I feel like there is something so wrong about it? As a world we share the sea, that’s what connects us.
Before I started rehearsals on This Changes Everything, I knew climate change existed, but I didn’t pay attention. Did that mean I was in denial? How my life has changed since starting this project. When I look at the news, I used to see war, but now I see climate change screaming out at me.
At the beginning of the week I saw this beautiful article by David Attenborough. It said; “Blue Planet II returns to the worlds ocean. The series looks at the impact of humans on life in the ocean, from warming seas and plastics to pollutants in the milk dolphins feed their calves, as well as telling stories of species recovery.” Going into the rehearsal space with these images from the article and then playing with water was rich. It was something we all needed to do, a sense of realisation.

Working with David feels like Christmas, you walk into the room and you don’t know what you’re going to get. This week has been interesting for me, as it’s a week where we re-visited ideas. It’s useful for me to know how I have changed doing it, and how it has changed. Each time I am asked to do the fish pose and crawl forwards to the audience, it’s a different experience every time. When I did this last time I felt like I was in the exorcist. This time was different, was it a nightmare looking back at the experience before or was I dreaming?
Doing it felt strangely normal. My back was facing down, lying on a mattress, with my head pushed up eyes alert flickering like thoughts, mouth open like a vulva. My legs were wide and spread open; I was asked the question of what it was like to put my legs apart? Today so often people comment on this movement seeming sexual, but it’s the way women give birth. That is what it was like for me to do it this time. Having Gemma lying on top of me doing this movement together was as if we were one. The thought of being separated was like the earth was coming down.
This made me reflect back to the book of This Changes Everything; “ I caught myself imagining how, as a wizend old woman, I would describe this extraordinary fish- its electric colour, its jewelled texture -to a child living in a world where these wild creatures had disappeared. I called my morbid habbit ‘pre loss’.”

 

Booking link for the show HERE

‘This Changes Everything’ with East 15 Acting School – blog by perfomer Kim Hallam

‘This Changes Everything’ with East 15 Acting School – blog by perfomer Kim Hallam

I began this process sceptical. That had nothing to do with feeling apprehension towards my director or fears of my first third year production. I denied climate change. I understood that we are polluting the planet and that we are poisoning  the Earth, but I was the first to shout “the world heats up and cools down”. I would admit that we were speeding up the process, nonetheless for me; the topic of ‘climate change’ would be swiftly followed by an eye roll…
Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m a vegetarian, I’m aware of the dirty palm oil industry, I’m cutting out beauty products tested on animals etc. I thought I was doing all the right things. However I was uneducated and uninterested in doing the research on our rapidly changing climate. Nevertheless when presented with This Changes Everything, I was committed to learning about Naomi Klein’s extensive research.

I completed the book and I felt foolish.

The symptoms of our corrupt planet, such as the meat industry and lack of fair trade are important, yes. However I now feel that they are merely distractions from a much bigger and more terrifying problem. That problem is our society. Capitalism manages to sell us a filthy dream of being rich all the while flaunting the rose tinted suffering of the underdogs who are keeping it afloat. We live in a world where we know children make our shoes, but continue to replace them regularly. We fill the sea full of oil, which we know destroys the coral reefs but then still choose to drive a five mile journey rather than walk. All the while people are gasping to keep themselves above the poverty line and some are utterly drowning. We ignore it. Still every time I promise that this is the “last time” I’ll have my Café Nero coffee in an unrecyclable cup…

I am disgusted with the way I have completely ignored the deterioration of our stunning planet and the marvellous people in it. This rehearsal process has given me an understanding of the pain that we have caused to this beautiful world. This week I wailed at my own imaginary image of a pollution filled sky. I stretched my body as high as I could, desperate for my fingertips to reach the clouded sun, choking on the murky air, only to come away from the exercise knowing that that is a reality in China… I have had many moments where I have felt hopeless. At least once a week I’ve said “fuck it, what’s the point?” I’ve felt that I have been mocking the work of environmentalists by throwing tennis balls at a plastic sheet to explore “protest”, when real people all over the world have literally given their lives in REAL protest. It felt like a piss take.

I continue to support capitalism on a daily basis by simply living my life and whilst capitalism rules the world, without removing myself from society I will always be a part of it. Now I could remove myself, run away and live in a forest? But we both know I will never actually run with that unproductive and irrational idea, because if I did, it would also remove my voice… and my voice as an artist and as a human is the most powerful gift that I will ever have in this fucked up world. There is no way in hell that I am going to let hopelessness silence me. I’m going to scream loud, louder than I thought it would ever be able to. Theatre makes the shit in this world accessible and relatable. I want every single person in that audience to listen what we have to say, and really hear us. I hope this changes people, even if it’s just one person for half an hour after the show…
I have a beautiful new respect for this planet and a vicious anger towards the people who run this backwards world. I don’t want to be a part of the generation who lets it die. I can’t bring children into a world that I’m ashamed of. I can at least try to make a difference and that’s got to be damn well better than giving up.

“Sorry Susan, let me correct you… I am SELFemployed, not UNemployed. Ok. Thanks. Bye.”

“Sorry Susan, let me correct you… I am SELFemployed, not UNemployed. Ok. Thanks. Bye.”

Blog by Aimee Kember.

We said farewell to Bleak House a little over 4 weeks ago, which feels like 4 months! Time has flown by and I’m sure all of us would love to be back in the theatre creating and getting messy. Since graduating last July, this is the first time I have no idea what’s next. Another life lesson they don’t teach you at university or drama school; how to use your time wisely.

Time is an interesting subject. Time is behind everything. You go through a breakup and people will say, “time is the best healer”. You get injured and you must “give it time”. “Your time will come” is another saying I hear being thrown around a lot. Now, an actor can either wait for time to pass for the next job or use that free time to expand themselves before the next journey arrives. I often find myself internally screaming at people, when they talk to me about employment; “I am self-employed NOT unemployed.” Now I for one defiantly haven’t mastered self-employment. Some days, I am up and at my desk by 9am, (I spent my birthday money on a desk rather than an iPod, that’s a real adult decision) emailing people, applying for jobs, researching or doing anything to help me in my next steps, and other days, I could quite easily spend all day pretending that binge-watching ‘Doctor Foster’ is classed as research. However, I have started to see the beauty in it. Don’t get me wrong I am also looking for “inbetween jobs, job” but having this free time to learn new skills and expand myself is extremely freeing and I can’t think of many industry’s that gives you time to do that. There is something thrilling about not having to wait for the weekend to spend time on yourself.

Speaking to people is crucial. I spent an hour chatting with Helen Lannaghan over coffee the other week (who I would not have met if it was not for David Glass) and I came away feeling motivated and positive about my next steps. Helen is Artistic Director of the London International Mime Festival and an ambassador of the David Glass Ensemble. She is also an all-round inspiring, hardworking and lovely individual. Talking with her about her work, about my ambitions and receiving advice and guidance from her was extremely uplifting. Sometimes you need to have someone else who isn’t a friend/relative and knows what they are talking about to sit you down and say; “you are good”, to give you the motivation you need to step outside that box you keep putting yourself in. Helen reminded me how important staying connected is. I find myself feeling a little lost from time to time in this huge industry, where I don’t have an agent or a well-known drama school under my belt, but what I do have is the freedom to connect with people, to share experiences with others and let people in. I am very thankful to Helen for taking time out of her very busy schedule to chat to me. Do make sure you check out the International Mime Festival, dates for Jan – Feb 2018 have just been released.

Observing. Now I know I’m probably not the only one, but I learn so much from observing. David Glass invited me along to watch a day of rehearsals at East 15 Acting School. The 3rd year Physical Theatre actors are currently working on ‘This Changes Everything’ inspired by Naomi Klein’s novel. The first thing I noticed straight away was the ensemble. This was a year group of about 15 actors who have worked together for the last 3 years. Of course, it’s predictable that they would work organically together. However, that is not the same as having a good ensemble. If David asked for something (which is normally leaves you thinking “where am I meant to produce that from, my arse?”) they would just do it; as a team. They were all extremely different individuals, which meant they all had their place within the ensemble. As a group, they had a rhythm and an atmosphere they carried with them. Just from observing them for a few hours I knew they had the ability to create a fantastic piece.

The way David worked with this ensemble wasn’t overly dissimilar from how he worked with the Bleak House ensemble. Mr Glass is very experimental in his work, for example, he will explore an emotion and put the actors into a scenario to bring that emotion to the surface. I have had the privilege to participate in many of these exploration exercises, however I haven’t properly observed one before and as I predicted it was extremely interesting to watch. This particular exercise, had the cast playing the triangle game, (a game I personally am very competitive in) choosing two people to try and stay in a triangle with. To add another layer, they had to count down whilst they played. For more intensity “rock around the clock” was played and in intervals of the game actors had to find a pair and begin dancing as the music got more frantic. When reflecting on what I had observed, my words were, “it was heart-breaking to watch, but I couldn’t look away”. To see how gradually each person became effected and how differently they all reacted. Some found the dancing an escape from the countdown, and others looked as if the dancing was torturous. These sorts of exercises always end up linking the show in some way. The countdown felt as if they were counting down to the end of the world whilst distracting themselves with dancing. Eventually the actors ending up as foetuses on the floor, which to some of us represented seeds being replanted.

Images are a main aspect in David’s work. The day I was there I saw some beautiful imagery, and heard about all the others that had been worked on over the last few weeks. Also, objects are a huge part of his process, using materials you wouldn’t think of to create something beautiful, for example, simply hanging a battered sheet of plastic from the ceiling became a stunning image of dark fog. David will add layers on top of layers and I always sit there stunned by how he’s imagination works on overdrive for many hours of the day.

I was utterly in awe and inspired by how open the ensemble were to play and how unafraid they were to all get stuck in. I found myself thinking after each exercise, “that has to be in the show!”. However. I know first-hand that a lot of magic that happens in the rehearsals room stays within those four walls, but the essence of what created oozes through the performance on the stage.

Over all, my day at East 15 was filled with creativity, talent and an overall wonderful experience. I felt like a fly on the wall, watching the story build block by block. Best of all I had a day of stimulating conversations with David who always makes me look at the world with new eyes, and challenge my ideas and ideals.

Earlier I wrote: “we actors can either wait for time to pass for the next job or we can use that time we now have to expand ourselves before the next journey arrives.” Reflecting on this statement, I have decided to stop treating each job as a different journey or process and begin to see each of them as a stepping stone to the next. They may be different genres, different characters, different people, but they all contribute. Aimee goes into the experience but a slightly stretched Aimee comes out. It’s all relatable, and I personally carry what I have learnt into the next adventure.

To end this ramble, I would like to thank: Helen for inspiring and believing in me, the 3rd year Physical Theatre actors at East 15 for allowing me to intrude on their rehearsals and of course David for continuing to motivate me and for his tremendous support.

Go and see ‘This Changes Everything’ in November in Southend, I have no doubt it’s going to make you think whilst also being a sceptical. Based around an extremely relevant and important message and performed by a very talented group who are soon to be graduating and entering this crazy industry. Go support them and see what they have to offer!
 

Information for the show can be found HERE

This Changes Everything – Week 3 at East 15 Acting School. Blog by Nathanael Ballew.

This Changes Everything – Week 3 at East 15 Acting School. Blog by Nathanael Ballew.

I’m so much more aware than I was even just a month ago. News articles, videos on social media, word of mouth, and other sources continue to pop up and reveal startling information about climate change and why it is happening. Of course, this isn’t new. The destructive machine that is Capitalism has been doing it’s thang way before I was born. I just chose not to notice it as much before, I suppose? But now my eyes are opened, and thankfully, it’s not too late.

The Polluters would have us believe that we are all just common travelers on Spaceship Earth, when in fact a few of them are at the controls, and the rest of us are choking on their exhaust.” (Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything)

Using this gem of a book by Naomi Klein as our source material for the show ‘This Changes Everything’ has had it’s ups and downs. The amount of information and detail packed into the book is immense, but it makes for a tricky time trying to pick out the most important bits to focus on for the performance. David Glass has been pushing us to start with the simplest of ideas. One thing. It was wafting a large plastic sheet. Which led to wafting a large plastic sheet with someone dancing on it. Someone dancing underneath it. Two people separated by it. Being wrapped up in it. Being tapped to it. And the list goes on and on. From a simple starting point, saying yes to the ‘What if we tried…’ ideas always seem to create flow. We might not use them all, but we’re continuing to create material and a vocabulary for this show is starting to form.

If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ On Care For Our Common Home)

I was reading this encyclical letter written by the Pope this weekend. It’s the book he gave to Donald Trump when he visited the Vatican in the hope of enlightening him on the truth and urgency of climate change (though to no avail it seems). In this document, this leader of many people writes how sound scientific research and faith must come together in order to prevent the rapidly approaching devastation on human life and nature as a whole. In a time when so many religious leaders in the west are still in denial about climate change, it’s encouraging to see someone with such a huge influence pressing so undoubtedly for change to the failing system.

Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. It is the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue.” (Naomi Klein)

David Glass and I have different beliefs which has led to some great discussion. I hear him saying ‘I want you to dig deeper and interrogate your beliefs. Find the root meaning of what you’re saying.’ It’s human nature to have questions. Questions tend to create more questions but occasionally they will reveal a deeper understanding.

My faith is the most important thing in my life; it gives me a sense of hope. Hope for the future. I do believe that there is life after death for those who choose to believe in Jesus and what He did for us. I feel like that hope keeps me afloat. Occasionally when we are in deep discussion in class, people will say ‘What is the point of carrying on? The earth would be better off without us? Maybe we deserve to die.’ And I totally see where they are coming from, but I also see it from a different perspective. The bible talks about God creating us on the earth to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15) and how “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm 24:1), so if we love and honour the Lord, we should be doing the same to this planet we call home. I may have my set values but by no means do I have all the answers; I’m still learning everyday (especially during this rehearsal process), and I hope to continue doing so.

A great irony is that I was reading the Pope’s book whilst on a plane to Switzerland for the weekend. In 2015, worldwide, flights produced 781 million tonnes of CO2. Now while that is only 2% of all human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, it is still a huge figure (ATAG).
Airplanes are going to play a large role in our production of ‘This Changes Everything’. A giant metaphor for capitalism. The need for instant gratification. Bigger is better. Grow, grow, grow! Monopolies that keep taking until there is nothing left. And it all seems very daunting – and there’s just me, sat cramped in my middle seat 33E, reading about climate change, the drum of the engine numbing noises as we fly 36,000 feet above the ground, and all the while consuming a butt-load of aviation fuel contributing to the very thing I’m reading about reducing. Wow, I’m a hypocrite.

I’ll tell you something for free though, you are probably one too.

Dread And Abhorrence In Las Vegas by Finn Boyle

Dread And Abhorrence In Las Vegas by Finn Boyle

​It was around about an hour or two after the news of the Las Vegas Strip shooting broke that the confusion festered and stuck its grubby shriveled talons into the deepest recesses of my brain. It’s an unpredictable little imp, that confusion. You never know where you’re gonna go when you ride that high: it could take you down the path of existential self-discovery, or into the darkest pits of that nihilist abyss where only the most degenerate and grotesque thrive. And the deeper you go, the more cyclical the path comes, as you come face to face with the very thing that sent you into this dank old void in the first place. Thankfully the road confusion walked me down offered only a passing glimpse into that deep dark. Still, it’s unsettling to know that the same little djinn that I saw that day could come disguised as fear or loathing for another, and the paths those take you down are ones that you can never walk back from. The same paths that I’m certain that scum Paddock walked down on the first of October in that great ersatz city.

​The lies of Las Vegas know no bounds – a supposed celebration of the American Dream, standing as the last beacon of a triumphant empire at the end of its Westward Expansion. Let’s not mince words here – it’s a little incubus squatting on stolen land built by bloodthirsty gangsters whose deceit ran as far as to claim their casinos were the representation of the City of so-called Meadows, despite their repeated actions to prevent said casinos from being included in the city’s administrative boundaries as part of a tax dodge. It’s an urban centre devoted to the illusion of glamour and splendor so that its residents can sit there thinking “We made it” and forget about the fact that they’re bankrupting themselves living in a slab of concrete in the middle of some desert. The only place on earth where you can walk from the Sphinx to the Eiffel Tower, briefly stopping off at the Statue of Liberty before spending a night in Caesar’s so-called Palace. Actually, that last bit is pretty fitting. Caesar, after all, was the man who led a Republic into ruin.

​The hollow horror of Las Vegas’s postmodern identity can be enough to drive anybody into a wallow of existential despair and anger. But what makes the Las Vegas Strip shooting so terrifying, and the aftermath so tragic, is the lack of motive. Hatred can be rationalized, and often is; ‘the shooter hated this group’, ‘he was a racist’, ‘he was a sexist’ etc. But the absence of an incitement, a cause without effect, that’s where the real horror is. That’s why, in the immediate moments afterwards, conspiracy theories swirled as people, desperate people walking that same path I did, tried to come up with some sort of reason. Unfortunately, this is where the true evil of humanity came to the fore.

​Conspiracy theories, in the absence of any motive, wrought havoc on the survivors of the attack. Of course, these theories often reaffirmed the political beliefs of those making them, told tall tales of a rabid Hillary Clinton-supporting, Trump-hating ANTIFA member who, having enough, devised a plan to attack the God-loving, good-natured normal folk that made this country great. What a load of bullshit.

​Similar reactions could be seen in the media and Sheriff Department of Maricopa County’s naming of Paddock as a possible ‘lone wolf’. These fucking reptiles were quick to claim Paddock wasn’t a terrorist. Of course, how could he be? He was American. Americans aren’t ‘terrorists’, terrorists are the Great Other, that nebulous, horrific antithesis that encapsulates everything America hates and hates everything America encapsulates. Therefore, he had to be a ‘lone wolf’, a grizzled, rugged outcast, who strayed away from the flock, but was never beyond redemption. Hell, even the name makes him sound like those cool cowboys who settled Vegas long before while raping and murdering the local Maricopa Indians (who they later made amends with by naming a County and Sheriff Department after).

​The reason why Paddock had to be slapped with that label of ‘lone wolf’ was because he demonstrated what every American has the potential of being. Often when locked in a dialectic struggle hurtling towards oblivion, One runs the risk of becoming the Other they so fear. The American, in fear of falling to the terrorists, becomes the terrorist. The wolf separates from the pack, and wander into the abyss. And those who stare into the abyss for too long run the risk of having it stare back.

​Anyone who has been down that dark chasm knows that evil isn’t one size fits all. It’s amorphous, nebulous, a shapeshifter. Shifty little thing. Killing people is one evil, but spreading lies, deceit and disinformation about a tragedy that people are still adjusting to, that’s a whole other kind. Making the fragile, trauma-afflicted lives of human beings worse so that you can feel better about yourself is an act of a lizard.

​Often when descending into that abyss, you can be faced with a choice. Change or deny. You’ll be faced with a fundamental problem, an issue inherent in your essence. You can either resolve to end it, to adapt, or to deny that’s even a problem. Resolution is usually the last step that gets you out of that Godforsaken hole, whereas denial will only get you deeper. And the deeper you go, the darker it gets, and the more alone you feel.

​Looking at this, and by ‘this’ I mean this, it can be tempting to just give up, stop your path, and sit right where you are. After all, it’s so isolating going down that path. But there’s a ray of hope, some tickling light in that tunnel. The survivors, despite everything, are going on. They’ve walked the same road we have, and some have made it out. They’ve looked down the sights of the same terror, hatred and confusion and have walked on. However, they don’t trek the path alone. That’s where the hope lies; in the fact that wherever they go, they can turn to their side and see someone else who can stare into their soul and say “I’m here for you”. Those travelers should be us.

Finn

“I had the distinct feeling that we were suspended not in water but in amniotic fluid, immersed in a massive multi-species miscarriage.” – Naomi Klein

“I had the distinct feeling that we were suspended not in water but in amniotic fluid, immersed in a massive multi-species miscarriage.” – Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything – Week 2 at East 15 Acting School. Blog by Dominique Dalton.

This week for me was quite a personal week. A theme that we kept working abound were the ideas of Life and Death and how they are intrinsically linked together; after all every one of us is born, and every one of us is going to die. On Tuesday, we had David for the morning only so he left us with a task that we revisited later on in the week.

The women had to research about the struggles of getting pregnant which also included exploring insomnia, IVF and miscarriage. We then used the research to create a movement sequence around the issue. And the men were sent off to research Auschwitz.

Within the first talk we [the women] had, we realised that 8 out of the 10 of us have had – and some still have – issues and struggled with contraception and our sexual organs, myself included. We found it amazing that in the 21st century, where we are producing more medicines and understanding more and more about ourselves, but still 80% of the women in my group are at war with their bodies and reproductive organs. I mean this was a slight tangent on what we were originally set, but I personally feel its 100% relevant still. When you understand that 84% of the female population between the ages of 20 and 24 have or still use hormone related contraception, and that 1 in 8 women struggle with fertility it doesn’t really take long to see the correlation between the two.

I’ve spent 6 years now pumping hormones into my body to prevent me from getting pregnant, and they are now increasing the hormones in said contraception. All those artificial chemicals – which aren’t meant to be there, they aren’t naturally occurring – eventually are going to cause an imbalance which could lead to worse problems. On a personal level, I can already vouch for this, for the past 2 years it’s been problem after problem which ultimately come down to the chemicals I’m putting in my body.

So, when we understand just how many women and young girls are being handfed these pills, and we see the effects they can have. It no surprise that all of the girls in our group had a fear that one day we might not actually be able to conceive. Obviously, there is a portion of women in society who 100% do not want to have children – and I used to class myself in that bracket – but when you are confronted with the fact that you might not actually have the choice to have children, it suddenly becomes very personal. After all we are all brainwashed by this patriarchal society – and women do it as well- into thinking that women ‘should’ have a child, so to have that option ripped away from you. Well, then you start to even question if you’re an actual woman. After all women are meant to have children, right? That’s the one reason we’re here, isn’t it?

So, then we look into IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) for those who the universe decided can’t – or struggles at least – to get pregnant, IVF is here to help. IVF started in 1978 and has been the miracle treatment that so many women think will answer all their prayers. But that’s not the case. In England, you can actually get IVF on the NHS if you fall within very specific guidelines, if not you’re looking at £5,000 per cycle. But even then, the actual success rate is between 32.3% and 1.9%.

These facts shocked us all, and we were almost in disbelief. We created our movement sequence by looking at Pina Bausch and Sasha Waltz for inspiration. After showing David on Thursday he took one of the images and got Elli to do it in a white nightdress through some leaves. Then he added Kim in who did it on top of Elli. When we were discussing how it made us feel as a class, a lot of us mentioned that it made us feel uncomfortable and in pain. Elli actually said that she felt like the was being exorcised and going through menopause.

We came back to the conversation of pregnancy and menstruation on Friday morning when we were reviewing our mind maps on ‘What Makes A Woman’. I was the only woman in the class who didn’t include periods/menstruation in her mind map. And a lot of the women said that having a child and pregnancy were central to being a woman. So, we are now living in a time where we are poisoning ourselves with chemicals and hormones, which affect our reproductive system; yet we still see women bearing children one of the central values of being a woman? That’s pretty much a recipe for disaster, isn’t it?

So, in conclusion, this week for me was very educational. I learnt so much and I feel that I am so much clearer in understanding my body and what should and shouldn’t be in my body. Women, and the capabilities of the female body are pretty fucking amazing. And to realise this amazing gift we have – the ability to reproduce whether we want to or not – is being threatened and affected by the world around us, is a clear parallel of the war between the capitalist society we live in and the natural world.

This war is not just happening in the jungles and the ice caps, it’s within us.

“I never thought I would sob over Nature. Never.”

“I never thought I would sob over Nature. Never.”

Week 2 –  ‘This Changes Everything’ at East 15. Blog by Marisa Foley.

“I feel like I wouldn’t be right, I wouldn’t be a woman. I was somehow created wrong.” – Dominique Dalton

I arrived at 9.00am to the studio ready for another week of devised work for ‘This Changes Everything’, the performance inspired by Naomi Klein’s book of the same title. I felt a mix of curiosity and tiredness, maybe a little bit of fear. Fear because I was tired from little sleep and as I learnt last week, it helps to have extreme energy physically and mentally for the intense themes we explore. Nonetheless, after a physical warm I was ready to work. The topic we would research and later devise a piece around was “Women who can’t get pregnant.” We got into a circle and started to discuss and, with a little help from Lauren’s iPad, research. We educated ourselves about IVF, miscarriages and contraception. Some of the discoveries were shocking. We found out facts such as those who have conceived naturally 1 in 6 will end in miscarriage before the 20th week. We discovered how many hormones are in IVF treatments, the painful process, the ridiculous amount of money that goes into it. Whilst discussing I noticed; the more we talked, the more anxious and uncomfortable we got as a group. What I also found fascinating was the amount of times the group and I touched our own bellies and groin unintentionally throughout the research. Kind of like we were protecting something or suddenly became very cautious and aware of our reproductive system. 7 out of 10 of us in the group have had problems with contraception. We also discovered that some contraception will be increasing some of the groups hormones and from my personal view, I felt so much more in rhythm and control of my cycle when I came off the pill. We started to question if these unnatural hormones were one of the problems woman can’t conceive? Is pollution a culprit?

Glass wanted us to make a movement piece inspired by Sash Waltz/Gecko/Pina Bausch/Mr. Gaga. He wanted the image of a woman in bed, struggling to sleep because she’s worried about not being able to get pregnant. He also mentioned to imagine what the hormones in IVF do to you. Our work involved repeated rhythm and repetition of movements. Because we have been devising together for 2 years, we have a tendency to want sleek and perfect work fast (who doesn’t?!) but Glass reminded he wanted as much materiel as possible, it can be as messy as you like. Great! Hearing that took off a lot of pressure and made us ‘play’ with it more. This sense of play helped me connect emotionally to the piece, I had a horrible feeling in my gut throughout the work but felt a strong connection with the other girls in the group, a feeling of sisterhood.

“I never thought I would sob over Nature. Never”

As I face one of my fellow actors, I hear Glass in the background. “I want you to be still, have eye contact with the person in front of you. No judgments just focus.” “Great.” I thought. “I can focus; I can do that!” As I stare into Gemma’s eyes. “Now, you are staring at a miracle, you are fascinated by this person. They shouldn’t have happened but they’re here.” As time went on I felt a feeling of sheer joy and happiness as I looked into Gemma’s eyes. I saw her soul, our connection grew, I saw how amazing she was…and oh dear…Here come the tears! “And now…” Glass continued, “I want you to imagine this person as a baby, to a child, to a teen, to an adult, to an old person, to slowly deteriorating into nothing.” I felt a strange feeling in my fingers, they felt numb and my imagination of Gemma’s life was so real and vivid it was painfully beautiful. I felt a mix of grief with a bittersweet feeling of acceptance that she would not be on this earth forever. None of us will. That is what time does. But then something strange happened. I had some sort of strange self-reflection. “Do I really care enough about the people around me? Do I really care about nature?” I think people need to go out and experience the world around us. I think people would find that compassion if we had to go and see the trees or the sea for just an hour a day. Everything has a life within it. As I wiped away my tears, I had a lot to think about.

MIND MAP

Over the space of half an hour we were asked to write down “what does it mean to be human?” and “what does it mean to be a woman?” We would later talk about this in more detail. We soon discovered what it means to be human. It is based around relationships. Family, friends, community. I never would have guessed it! Yet the more we talked about it the more connections we made to relationships.

BOX EXERCISE

At the end of the day We put a plastic box in the centre on the room. Gemma (who is quite small) was asked to go into the box and explore how she can move in the contained space. She was not allowed to come out of the box to move. As I saw her move around, I found it mesmerizing and difficult to watch. I saw struggle and hopelessness in her movement and face. She was a trapped animal.

I then repeated this. I am taller than Gemma so at first I felt I couldn’t move at all. I started to push myself to move. I’m going to try my best to explain how felt but I found the process quite intense and it was like I was in a trance. Glass asked me to continue to move and then realize there was no way out. There never will be. Suddenly feeling extremely panicked and claustrophobic it was like my body went into overdrive. I was covered in sweat and I could feel my whole body get hotter and hotter. I heard Glass in the background, But sometimes I didn’t hear, sometimes I didn’t even listen! He then told me to slowly get out of the box and stand. I had two minutes to do this. As I got up Glass told me to experience the pain. And oh wow I did! It was something I’ve never experienced before, where did this pain come from?! I felt like I had been hit by a bus! As I finally got on my feet I was asked to look up and reach to the stars, where I desperately wanted to be. This part of the process felt like a dream, I had no feeling in my body, no awareness of my breath. It unlocked something in me that day. A vulnerability that I never show to anyone maybe? Still in this state of shock I looked at the audience and saw shining stars in them… Was I on drugs? No, but it felt like it. I felt extremely scared but also somewhat accepting that this is the end of me. I felt an energy that made me feel I was going to explode. It was euphoric. I’ve been thinking a lot about it since, yet I can’t explain it in great detail. I woke up the next morning with cuts and bruises from the exercise. “When the F*** did this happen?!”. It was a beautiful F*cked up experience. What a wonderful break through. What an interesting way to end the week!

“Thank you for letting me pour shit over your daughters head for 3 weeks.”

“Thank you for letting me pour shit over your daughters head for 3 weeks.”

Blog by performer Aimee Kember AKA poor unfortunate Jo in Bleak House.

“Aimee, please could you describe what it’s like working with David Glass?”

MESSY; beautifully messy. It’s physically messy with dirt coming out of every orifice, emotionally messy, and you know that messy… when your intoxicated and let go of all inhibitions and when you wake up the next morning, you realise what you have done and/or agreed to…. Yes, that!

It’s as if I blinked and time has moved on without me. We spent many many hours creating this wonderful beast that has been adapted from Charles Dickens 904 page novel. I was very fortunate enough to have witnessed and been a part of David Glass’ first adaptation of Bleak House at the Arts University Bournemouth and now feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to be completely consumed by it all over again.

It all began in the rehearsal room where the ensemble honestly built itself naturally and where we explored the world of Bleak House. I could already see the images David was trying to create, even without any set, props, lights or costume. Characters had been lifted off the page and I felt safe knowing that as an ensemble we had taken hold of the reigns and we all let David have the whip. Slowly I began to realise that none of us ever said “NO”, the directors dream right?

“Aimee, sniff the dirt.” Said Mr Glass casually.
“Ok”, Aimee replied.
“We’re going to pour this watery shit over your head.”
“No problem.”
“Climb that plank.”
“Yep.”
“Drop from there, slide down that, climb over that.”
“Yes Mr David Glass, anything.” Replied the ensemble, completely hypnotised.

But honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Being open to ideas and willing to throw everything we had into the process meant we were able to create some stunning imagery and really let the melodrama live inside of Bleak House. It has truly been an absolute pleasure working with the ensemble, and I have learnt so much from every person involved in the process. Being surrounded by artists of different ages, experiences and abilities lead to an organic and experimental devising journey. I have never felt so much talent, passion and warmth in a rehearsal room until this process and it was evident on stage how well we worked together. The best thing was, that the ensemble was not only the actors on stage, it also consisted of other very talented creatives: the director, designer, assistant director, the technician, the producers, the company ambassadors and even people who are working on other projects within the David Glass Ensemble. You could feel the passion and dedication oozing out of everyone.

Before going into this project I knew that I couldn’t hold back. I have had the tendency in the past to let my over thinking and insecurities get in the way of my development during rehearsals and my goal was to not let that happen. Especially when working with David, you can’t hold back, he is not a director who will tell you what to do or how to say a line, he will put you in a situation/scenario and guide you through, but the rest is up to you. Once you have explored the essence of the scene, it is then again up to you to apply it to the written dialogue. You have to bring something. It’s up to you how far you want to go. David has the ability to make an extremely safe space for actors to explore, and there wasn’t any point during the process where I didn’t feel I could express myself, burst into tears, or completely make a fool of myself. (However, there were points where I was afraid what he might chuck over my head next…) The biggest lesson I learnt was that I was the only person ever holding myself back and if I let go and trusted my instincts, I might just find what I was looking for.

Looking back, Bleak House was an amazing, crazy, dirty, exhausting, growing experience. Working with David is hard work, but the hard work every actor adores. Yes I got bruises, yes I got messy, and yes I was tired, but like I said to David near the biscuit isle in Sainsbury’s at 10pm on Tuesday of show week. ‘I want to go home knowing we have done our best to put on something visually spectacular, something moving and thought provoking. Not to go home to tell people “oh, I had a lovely night sleep, but the show was shit!”.’

If anyone gets the chance to work with David Glass I give you some words of advice. Prepare, prepare to not be prepared for what’s thrown at you. Be prepared to get a new line thrown at you during the interval of the final show (trust me it happened to two of us). Don’t think you can’t do it, you don’t know till you try (if he can get Penelope Diamond to drop from the top level of scaffolding, he can get anyone to do it). Always embrace his morning movement classes, they are extremely beneficial as an actor, getting to know your body and just being inside yourself is more than a warm up, it’s the time you are most aware throughout the whole day. Also class is where you will do the most strangest things with your bodies and make possibly the most sexual noises, but it will become the most normal part of the process. Never, and I mean NEVER wear your favourite pair of leggings/top/trouser/underwear to rehearsals. Lastly my advise is to embrace and really live inside every moment, I can guarantee it will be one of the most beneficial and enjoyable experiences you will have, which will fly past faster than a southeastern train not in service. Oh. And if you invite your grandparents to the show, warn them it will be loud!

Photograph curtesy of Robert Golden.

Aimee Pollock AKA Esther Summerson reflects on her time with the Ensemble

Aimee Pollock AKA Esther Summerson reflects on her time with the Ensemble

As I packed my bag on the Sunday following four wonderful performances of Bleak House, I only wished I was moving onto the next city, the next show… I was just starting to find my rhythm and the technicalities of the show were feeling embodied and I just wanted to keep going, I wasn’t ready for it to end! Although, being home, I have been able to reflect on what was a truly, brilliant experience.

Before Bleak House began, I spoke with a friend and mentioned I would be playing Esther Summerson, to which he replied, ‘oh god, she’s so pathetic and weak.’ Unfazed by this, I went into rehearsals, ready to work, with an open mind. Week one was very much about discovery and play, making bold choices, even if they were wrong, it was a time to make mistakes and try things out. During week two, the set arrived and it was like visually seeing the brilliant minds of David and Zoe slot together. The scaffolding which Zoe had designed provided beautiful frames for which David edited our visceral, beautiful melodrama. Melodrama and performing on scaffolding were two very new things for me, but it’s amazing how quickly the body adapts and David soon had us swinging upside down and hanging off the sides. Marvellous- a playground for adults!

Throughout the entire process I had my little notebook permanently attached to my hip, because David is always dropping nuggets of information that I wanted to remember. Something that particularly struck me, was after the dress rehearsal, he said that “in melodrama the emotion should not overwhelm you. It should be for the audience. If you weep too much, the audience won’t and you do not want to deprive them of that.” I needed to be reminded of this, as I have never played a character so like myself before. I feared I would get caught up in the characters emotion when reliving an experience similar to my own. David also often spoke about an actors need to be liked. Liked by their director, liked by each other and most importantly, liked by the audience (although we tend not to admit this). Esther is someone who craves love and desperately wants to be liked because she has never felt worthy of it. She is also openly fragile, naïve, indecisive, and melancholic; the parts of me that I try to keep hidden. Not your typical traits for a heroine, but to me that is what makes her special. Esther finds it hard to see herself as beautiful, especially next to her beloved Ada. As I delve further into this competitive world, full of beautiful actresses where their outer self is so often considered before their inner, it can be hard not to compare yourself. (Especially when you are the girl who leaves class like you’ve just stepped out of the shower because you sweat that much – thank you David!) But just like Esther, I have learnt to accept myself in all my forms and realise my own self-worth. It helps when you are surrounded by a generous, passionate, thoughtful cast of people, whom for a short time become your family, daily you are reminded that you belong, and that everybody’s unique in their own way. I see so much of my seventeen-year-old self in Esther and even though we are centuries apart, one being fictional, the other being real (I think) we are connected through a shared journey to discover oneself, which I’m sure everyone can relate to.

I learnt that in melodrama there are moments when the actor has complete power over the audience. As the narrator, I got to watch the audience gasp as Tulkinghorn rolled like a snake from the top of the scaffolding to bottom, hold back tears as poor, little Jo died and laugh as Madame Krooke self-combusted. The audience were taken on a roller coaster of emotions, never knowing what was going to happen next and constantly being shifted from one emotion to the other. Storytelling is a powerful art form and the theatre is a special place to connect people from all walks of life. I felt this during the last performance when I delivered my final line; “if she is a girl, we shall call her…”, and someone whispered “Esther” just before I did. It was an utterly magical moment. I felt the audience had been with us all along.

Bleak House may be over, but there is still work to be done. More voice work, more physical training, and more learning – which I realised with David, is at the heart of everything he does. Being a part of the David Glass Ensemble was a gift and I got to experience first-hand, not only how David works but how he is providing people with opportunities that can often be hard to be to come by. He is bringing together artists from all cultures and backgrounds… I met beautiful the Italian ‘Brides’ and lovely ladies from China.
After watching the performance, my friend told me he was wrong about Esther. As for me, I can only hope to meet her again in the future…
Thank you, David, Gavin, Zoe, Natalie, Hester, Robert, Kerry and the entire cast of Bleak House for an incredible experience I shall never forget!

 

Photograph curtesy of Robert Golden